Book recommendation: The Score Takes Care of Itself

This may seem a little odd for a fastpitch softball blog, but I recently finished reading a book that I think is a must-read for every coach. It’s called The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership, by Bill Walsh with Steve Jamison.

Yes, it’s that Bill Walsh, the former San Francisco 49ers coach who was the brain behind the West Coast offense. While the book is ostensibly written as a guide on leadership for business leaders, there is a lot in there for any coach in any sport to learn. After all, coaching is a lot about leadership as well.

Now, you would think that a book like this would focus on his triumphs and how brilliant he is. Yet Walsh comes across as very humble, and is equally at home (maybe moreso) talking about his tribulations and failures.

I found the opening of the book particularly helpful. You see, this past summer was a rough one for me. I had a very good team with very good players, but somehow we just didn’t win as many games as we should have. I kept beating myself up, wondering why, when we’d do so many things right, we didn’t win more. Then I read this book.

It starts with Walsh talking about his first couple of seasons with the 49ers. He’d waited a long time to get a shot at being a head coach in the NFL, and finally got it with San Francisco.

The year before he joined them, he writes, they went 2-14. Then, in his first year as head coach, after instituting many changes and establishing his Standard of Performance, the 49ers went — wait for it — 2-14. The exact same record.

His second season they started off better, but then hit an eight-game losing streak. The 49ers were finally playing the Dolphins in a must-win game, and it came down to the last play. The Niners had three shots at a come from behind victory, but ultimately lost due to penalties on that final play.

Then came the part that really struck me. Walsh said on the plane ride home he broke down in tears and considered handing in his resignation. He just didn’t know whether he had what it took to be an NFL head coach. Fortunately he slept on it and by the time Monday came he’d decided to continue. His teams went on to win the Super Bowl the following year, and two more in 10 years while dominating the NFL.

For me, I figured if someone who had experienced so much success had also had so many difficulties, maybe I hadn’t done such a bad job after all. Maybe all we’d needed was a little more time for what I’d tried to do to take effect — time we didn’t have.

The book is full of anecdotes like that, along with plenty of practical, step-by-step advice on how to turn teams into classy champions. Yet Walsh is more than willing to share the things he did wrong as well as what he did well. He also spends a considerable amount of time on how to treat people — both players and people in the organization — that’s worth reading all on its own.

I know that for me, reading this book really helped me see my own coaching style and philosophy more clearly. I actually found myself thinking “yeah, I do that” at many points, and got many new ideas on how to improve on what I do.

This is a book I highly recommend every coach read. I think you’ll find it fascinating and inspiring. Walsh was always a class act, and in this day and age we can really use a lot more of that.

So what about you? What books have you read that have inspired or affected your coaching that way?

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About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on November 12, 2011, in Coaching. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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